April 20, 2010
The landscape of the Farm has multiple soil types. For such a small area, the soil changes often. Some of the areas are great for growing hay, and then, some of the areas are high in alkali and salts, not so great. A few of the alkali and salt areas are located in or near our hay fields I would like to bring them into hay production sometime in the future. Alkali and salts are not the only problem though. Where the alkali and salt have existed, for who knows how many years, little vegetation has ever grown. Which has left the soil not only high in alkali and salt, but with little organic material.
There are at least two trains of thought when considering seeding these areas. One is to know what plants you want to grow in the soil and then work to change the soil—additives, soil builders, etc.—until the soil will support the plant. Another thought is to know the soil and then find plants that will do well in that type of soil. I want to do both.
What I would like to do is to seed plants that do well in alkali and salts. Let those grow and then turn them into the soil. The hope is if we do this for a few years the soils humus will build to a point that the soil will open up and the alkali and salts will flush out with watering. After a few years of working the soil with plants that “like” it, I hope the soil changes (using plants as the additive in this case), and I can grow hay in the areas now full of alkali and salt.
I had some time with my neighbor the other day who has the same problems, but has been farming (and farming this soil) years longer than me. Over the years, he has used Sudan Grass in these areas. He is clear that where the alkali and salt are very high, the Sudan doesn’t grow there either. But slowly with time, the edges are slowly playing out and crops are closing the alkali and salt areas. However, like he said, this takes years and there are no guarantees. He also suggests taking some time to see what other seed is “out there” that might do well in alkali and salt.
So I am searching for a seed that enjoys alkali and salt. If you have any suggestions, let me know.